Is the husband’s role parallel to that of God the Father, and the wife’s role parallel to that of God the Son?
(1 Corinthians 11:3) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
Professor Wayne Grudem interprets 1 Corinthians 11:3 as follows:
just as the Father has authority over the Son in the Trinity, so the husband has authority over the wife in marriage. The husband’s role is parallel to that of God the Father and the wife’s role is parallel to that of God the Son.
— Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, chapter 14
Wayne Grudem is notorious for pushing the idea that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. That idea is commonly referred to as ESS — Eternal Subordination of the Son.
ESS is a fallacious doctrine which has compounded the entrapment of women who are abused by their husbands.
The ESS interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:3 gives the wife the role of being the self-sacrificing suffering servant under the headship of her husband. That means it contradicts Ephesians 5.
Brad Mason exposes how just fallacious and un-biblical the ESS interpretation is:
[The ESS reading of 1 Corinthian 11:3 is] that the suffering Servant role of Christ toward God is the role of the wife to her husband. On that fallacious reading, the wife’s co-equality is realized in her self-sacrificial servant role under the headship of her husband.
On the contrary, in Ephesians 5 we see the husband bearing the self-sacrificial role of loving service on behalf of his wife.
In the ESS analogical reading of 1 Corinthians 11, headship implies rule over the self-sacrificing servant wife; in Ephesians 5, where an actual and explicit analogy is present, headship implies self-sacrificing service on behalf of the wife.
Take home message
The husband’s headship means he ought to self-sacrificially serve his wife. Jesus the suffering Servant, who serves and builds up the church*, is the model for the husband sacrificially serving his wife.
*The church / the congregation / the people of God means all the people whom God has been, is and will be making one with and in Christ.
Articles by Brad Mason
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